114 discriminatory laws in India against people afflicted by leprosy: Gandhi Peace Prize winner Sasakawa

Goodwill Ambassador for Leprosy, Sasakawa pose for a photograph at Lalit Hotel in New Delhi on January 29, 2018. Photo: Shiv Kumar Pushpakar

Goodwill Ambassador for Leprosy, Sasakawa pose for a photograph at Lalit Hotel in New Delhi on January 29, 2018. Photo: Shiv Kumar Pushpakar   | Photo Credit: SHIV KUMAR PUSHPAKAR

Gandhi Peace Prize winner Sasakawa welcomes recent Bill removing disease as grounds for divorce

“There are 114 discriminatory laws against people with leprosy that still exists in India. They need to go immediately,” said Yohei Sasakawa, the World Health Organization Goodwill Ambassador for Leprosy Elimination.

The Nippon Foundation chairman said this while welcoming the recent Bill passed by the Lok Sabha, which removed leprosy as grounds for divorce stating that it was a “discriminatory” provision for a disease that is now curable.

Mr. Sasakawa, who is in India currently, has been conferred the Gandhi Peace Prize (2018) for his work towards the eradication of the disease here and across the world. The prize carries a citation and ₹1 crore. The names of the awardees were chosen by a jury headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Five provisions

Speaking to The Hindu, Mr. Sasakawa said: “Five provisions of 119 have already been repealed — Rajasthan Panchayati Raj Act, 1994; Bombay Prevention of Begging Act, 1959 (Delhi Extension); Orissa Zilla Parishad Act, 1991; Orissa Grama Panchayats Act, 1964 and Odisha Grama [Panchayat Samiti] Act, 1959. But, currently, there are 114 more laws which need to be bought down to zero. We are working constantly with the Indian government to ensure that laws protecting people with leprosy are brought in.”

He added that his organisation was working with State governments in India to ensure that the elderly afflicted by leprosy living in various colonies are given an allowance, which will prevent them from begging.

“Leprosy has to be tackled in a dual manner, where treatment and social discrimination are dealt with together. Children have to be educated about the fact that leprosy is completely curable and not a curse from god. They need to be told that it cannot be passed on from one generation to another,” he said.

Mr. Sasakawa also welcomed the increased in the number of leprosy cases being reported, stating that this will ensure that more people can now report and avail of the treatment facility available to leprosy patients.

Speaking about the Gandhi Peace Prize, he said: “I am honoured to receive the Gandhi Peace Prize in this memorable year, which marks the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi. I thank the Government of India for recognising the contribution of all who have been working together to eliminate leprosy and improve the lives of persons affected by the disease. I humbly accept this prestigious award on their behalf.”

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Printable version | May 30, 2020 2:48:37 PM |

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